Generic Small Ringlight

I recently purchased extension tubes to open up my options for close up photography. What I quickly learned was:

  • Multiple extension tubes reduces your exposure significantly (almost 2.5-3 stops with both 10mm and 16mm stacked)
  • When you get inches away from your subject, you can end up blocking the light you need with your lens (and camera).

So, a ring light seemed like an option that I should explore. I purchased my generic small ring light off eBay.

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And here is the typical product shot from eBay.


Mine is missing the parts at the center left in the photo, but those parts aren’t listed in the included items in the eBay list. In any case, I’m not too worried. They look like they might be used for mounting to point-and-shoot cameras or tripods.

There are many larger ring LIGHTS available as well as large ring FLASHES. (Lights are constant, (most) flashes don’t have a modeling light.) But I don’t plan to use this ring light for portraits (I personally don’t like the look it gives for portraits) so I don’t feel that I needed a larger ring light.


  • This one came with an external 3V power cord, but I’m too mobile to find this useful. AA batts works for me.
  • This is essentially a big flashlight, and at 48 LEDs, this will suck the power out of two rechargeable batteries in about 1.5 hours according to the specs, and I don’t doubt it.


  • Be careful with the battery door. This thing is inexpensively made. I found that, rather than use my thumb to push off the door, it was better to grip the battery case with one hand and pull off the battery door with the other hand (while pressing on the door release).
  • I already see stress in the diffuser mounting clips (see below). I predict these will be the first to break (then I will end up keeping the diffuser in place with tape).
  • OMG! Once this thing is slid into place, don’t expect to be able to rotate it! (to position the light when you only use lights from one side.) There is no give — you will need to slide it off and then slide it back into the new position.

Color balance:

  • The white diffusion filter might give you the most light, but the orange corrective filter gave me more accurate colors using auto white balance on my Fuji…
  • But not on my Canon G15 (the white diffuser resulted in a blue cast), so definitely test for what work for your camera.

Light level

  • At about 4 inches, I could get pretty good exposure at f/4. In this case, 1/125 f/4 ISO640 on Nikon 50mm + 10mm and 16mm extension tubes stacked.
  • I wouldn’t go too much further than a few feet in the dark. At 2ft, 1/125 f/4, I was already getting around ISO4000. Remember, this is essentially a diffused flashlight (rather than a focusing flashlight), so light fall off is very fast.
  • However, if you just needed a little more focus light and planned to use a flash, I bet this would be an option — you just need to figure out how to hold the battery pack. One of those right lights with batteries in the ring might work better in this case.

Minimum distance

  • Photos at 4″, about 1.5″ and 1/2″
  • You can see that below the minimum spec of 3cm (1.2″) causes rings. Adding paper to direction some of the light back in does not help much.
  • The distance is just too small to recapture much light.

These shots were taken in the same spot on our couch.

The only difference is there is a piece of posterboard under and behind the camera in the second shot. The slight angle difference is due to the camera moving and me hand holding the camera (no tripod).

The main light is a (incandescent) lamp just behind it + overhead ceiling fan lights (incandescent & CF warm) and the ring light (orange filter). The mix of color temps was tricky, and I wasn’t going for perfection, otherwise I would have gotten flashes out.


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